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Reclaiming Science & Spirituality from the Ego
Ayoung child stares at the stars with wonder. That child might become a scientist, a mystic or both. A young person feels the suffering of others and wonders what can be done. That child might become a doctor or a healer. Wonder motivates inquiry, and the desire to help turns our intentions toward the alleviation of suffering and to the pursuit of “progress,” either through scientific or spiritual means.
Whichever metaphor we choose to explore, science or spirituality, whichever path we choose to alleviate suffering, the material or spiritual, whether a physicist or mystic, an environmentalist or intuitive counselor, we face the same question: How does self-interest derail both the wonder and the desire to help? How have our initial impulses been hijacked by the ego, and what can we do about it?
How do we free ourselves from the domination of the ego, so that once more science and spirituality are a sacred trust, committed to wonder, inquiry and co-creation with the universe of which we are a part?
Ego is the awareness of individual existence. It is natural and part of the human condition, yet in its immature form, it compels us toward behaviors that are self-serving and short-sighted. The child who loves chemistry is praised by the science teacher, who is equally validated by that child’s interest. Ego is already at work. Now the child begins competing to be the best, to achieve, and to gain recognition. Later, he or she competes for scholarships, professorships, placement in scientific journals, grants, prizes, recognition. How many of us can stand up to that kind of environment and not be influenced in the choices we make, choices as to what to study, how to present ourselves, who to credit and who not to credit? How many of us can stand up to the ego’s endless craving for recognition, praise and validation? Pride in ourselves begins to trump wonder.
Scientists jockeying for power and position are unconsciously propelled in directions that may not benefit science or the earth. At conferences, me-based agendas begin to seep into our conversations, as we choose the paths that either feed our pride or our pocketbooks. Some of us, whose egos are fed more by defiance, will find controversial ways to stand out. Those whose egos are fed by acceptance seek peer recognition. We have many rationalizations. I have a family to feed. I need to establish my credibility in my field. I need to build my department, institute. Who is completely disengaged from these considerations? How many of us are totally focused on the end goal: What will support the whole? How can I make the greatest contribution?
In the spiritual sphere, it is no different. An intuitive counselor lives every day in the reality of oneness. Where do we get our information as intuitives, except through our connection either to the psyche of another or to higher consciousness itself? Yet we who live every day in the reality of oneness will jockey for recognition among our peers. Where is oneness now?
As a spiritual teacher, if I teach a message that makes me popular, won’t I ignore the imperative of a different message, one that will turn people away, all the time rationalizing that I am teaching the truth or this is what people need now? If I am rewarded for puffing up the egos of my followers, won’t I unconsciously gravitate toward making people feel good? If I am rewarded for tearing people down, won’t I ultimately become a caricature of toughness and of myself?
The ego creates agendas not only for our personal self-aggrandizement, but for our personal and collective domination of other beings, species and life itself. It is well known that science has been used to manipulate, dominate and create profit through the application of science to weaponry or to the creation of vehicles that damage the environment. And spirituality is being used in the same ways, even in its “New Age” form. Whether we use voodoo to damage our enemies, prayers to win games, or spiritual laws to attract prosperity, our egos determine what should happen, and we attempt to apply spiritual power to meet those agendas. Instead of spirituality being an outreach to the universe, it becomes a way of dominating it. And, of course, the masses of folks, who are also dominated by ego, will applaud.
There is nothing wrong with asking science or spirituality to improve our lives, but only from a place of wonder and service to the whole, and that is anathema to the ego, which is focused on me-based, short-term goals. How do we free ourselves from the domination of the ego, so that once more science and spirituality are a sacred trust, committed to wonder, inquiry and co-creation with the universe of which we are a part?
- We acknowledge the devastating impact of the ego on our souls, our society and our environment.
- We examine our beliefs and behaviors and ask ourselves whether we are acting for the highest good of all, including ourselves, or focusing on agendas for validation, admiration, attention, power or success?
- Once we have acknowledged how much we are run by ego, we laugh.
- We recollect the wonder and/or the devotion to service that once inspired us and reconnect to that passion.
- We retrain ourselves to think in terms of the whole, remembering that we can only thrive when everyone and everything is thriving.
- We remember God.
Recently Stephen Hawking asserted that science does not need God to explain existence. That may be true, but we need God, the source, higher consciousness, to stop ourselves from destroying it. Without God, our egos become God, and we have seen the results.
Once we looked up at the stars and felt uplifted by belonging to the infinite. That is the deepest joy of any human being, to be part of something greater than ourselves. But that something which is greater than ourselves cannot be limited to our family, community, religion, nation, race or even species. We belong to God, to the universe of which we are a part. And when we feel the power of that belonging, the ego cannot dominate, and it must evolve.